Saturday, December 31, 2005


This idea was suggested as a game but each person needs a dictionary and there's a lot of flipping through pages involved so it may work better with a small group who love looking words up or as a solitary game.

Take a saying or short poem or short quote. Change all the nouns to the 7th word following it in the dictionary. (If the 7th word is a form of the original word (like mankind is a form of man) keep moving down the words until you get something bizarre.)

Save the best ones for writing prompts.

To get you started, here's a couple of haiku from Basho, one of the most famous haiku poets.
An old pond—
The sound of a frog jumping
into water.

The first cold shower;
Even the monkey seems to want
A little coat of straw.
And a couple of quotes from Basho:
"There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; There is nothing you can think that is not the moon."

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."
There's also a huge list of aphorisms (short witty sayings) at Fortunes. NOTE: all the first ones are computer based. Keep scrolling until you see the first letter change to f or h or p.
b computer humor
c computer profound
f fortune cookies
h humorous
p profound/serious

The only online dictionary I know of that will show the words preceeding and following a word is The Free Dictionary. Type in a word or phrase. Click "Look it up". Then scroll down to the bottom of the page. The list of surrounding words is on the left. In fact it gives exactly 7 words before and 7 words after your word. Click on the last word in the lefthand list to get the next 7 words.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

They fight crime

Pick a pair of crime fighters as a writing prompt. Or mix and match. Or, since it may be a bit much to pack into a 15 minute writing prompt, pick just one ...
  • He's an ungodly day-dreaming cat burglar whom everyone believes is mad. She's a plucky Buddhist safe cracker living homeless in New York's sewers. They fight crime!

  • He's a scrappy Jewish barbarian trapped in a world he never made. She's a plucky belly-dancing Valkyrie from the wrong side of the tracks. They fight crime!

  • He's a lonely coffee-fuelled inventor from the Mississippi delta. She's a brilliant extravagent mermaid in the witness protection scheme. They fight crime!

  • He's a notorious day-dreaming boxer on a mission from God. She's a sarcastic voodoo vagrant looking for love in all the wrong places. They fight crime!

  • He's a war-weary cyborg from the 'hood. She's a gun-slinging guitar-strumming card sharp possessed of the uncanny powers of an insect.. They fight crime!

  • He's a maverick misogynist dwarf fleeing from a secret government programme. She's a man-hating extravagent college professor from a secret island of warrior women. They fight crime!
These were automatically generated at They Fight Crime.

(Note, occasionally the teams will reference sexual orientation and I saw hooker come up once.)

Words in words

Use the following words that are in other words in sentences:
star in startle
lever in clever
turn in turnip
grin in grind
sigh in sight
urge in splurge
icky in picky/tricky
love in slovenly
harm in pharmacy
can in candor
hut in shuttle
cue in rescue
cry in crystal
want in wanton
age in language
ugh in laughter
laughter in slaughter
bit in ambition
red in credit
hop in shop
These are from Words in words.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A naive bard, a tactless knight and a watchman

Pick one of the following fantasy ideas as a writing prompt. You may want to pick just a few elements from a prompt since they are a bit much for a 15 minute exercise.
  • The story is about an official, a watchman, a duke, and a herbologist. It takes place in a city-sized magical device. An important bloodline plays a prime part.

  • The story is about a naive bard, a tactless knight, and a watchman. It takes place in a coliseum. The story ends with an apocalyptic event. An impending magical conflux plays an important role.

  • This is an exploitation-style story with an undercurrent about the need for traditional values. The story is about a bard. It starts in a holy commonwealth in a universe where space travel occurs by magical means. The story climaxes with a tragedy. The destruction of a magical artifact plays an important role.

  • This is a comedy-of-manners with an emphasis on lost love. The story is about a spy. It starts in a metropolis. Magic is fading in power, and that plays an important role in the story.

  • This is a surreal comedy with an emphasis on creativity and the oddities of the human condition. The story is about three miserly alchemists. It starts in a haunted commonwealth. The crux of the story involves a sport being played. The return of an ancient evil at regular cycles plays an important role in the story.
These were automatically generated at Story Generator using the Fantasy option.

7 sentence story

Write a 7 sentence story for a set of 7 nouns. The trick this time is the words need to be in the order listed. Pick one set or do as many as you want.
  • stripes

  • valley

  • disease

  • ears
Inspired by Story Chains at Telling Tales.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Bright and lovely chestnuts

Wish I'd stumbled across this site earlier in the month but since I didn't I decided to send it as a Christmas present. :-)

Write a story that includes one of these sentences. Try writing the sentence down and working onward from it. Then if you find you need to build up to the sentence for the story to make sense, just add some at the beginning
  • During the silent night jingled bright and lovely chestnuts.
  • On Santa's lap flew frozen and adorable children.
  • In the winter wonderland flashed huge and sparkling snowflakes.
  • During the blizzard rejoiced glittering and festive angels.
  • Through the wintery darkness sparkled bright and colorful children.
  • In the frozen north glittered toasty and warm carolers.
These sentences were automatically generated at WritingFix's Great Sentence Creator: Funny Christmas.

Or do the same with one of these sentences. (You can rearrange the parts between the "/"s to make the sentences sound the way you want them to. For example, "on Christmas day" can go at the beginning. Of course you can always alter any prompt!)
  • The sticky candy cane / drifted / behind the house / on Christmas day.
  • Frozen Old Frosty / teetered / beside the big tree / during the snowstorm.
  • Magnificent Mary / plunged / next to the chimney / late in the afternoon.
  • The amazing angel / bounced / in back of the couch / before we said grace.
  • A radical Rudolph / slunk / across the yard / on Christmas Eve.
  • The luminous lights / drifted / next to the package / during the snowstorm.
These sentences were automatically generated at Who/What/When/Where Games: Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Random manga lines

One way to jump start a story when you're stuck is to randomly choose a line from a book. I used this at least twice last month during NaNoWriMo and actually prompted two of my favorite scenes and characters. Since my writing is rather manga-ish, I chose lines from manga.

Pick one as a writing prompt.
  • "Looks like hell has officially frozen over."

  • "The thoughts of a fool amount to nothing no matter how high they are piled."

  • "'This nation will be mine!' Or so he says."

  • "The body's moving by itself!"

  • "What'd you do with my rice bowl!"

  • "You weren't so civil last time we met. Do you remember? I was still gathering my powers."

  • "And I nrver goy the best of him ... not once! Like I said, he's brilliant."

  • "It's nothing ... I just sensed someone looking at me."

  • "It took much longer this time, didn't it?"

  • "You little fraud! Showing your true nature at last I see!"

Wistful wishes

Write the alphabet down the side of the page. Write an alliterative phrase -- like wistful wishes -- that has to do with the holiday season for each letter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Seasonal words

Use the following words in a fantasy or science fiction story that isn't about Christmas or the holiday season.
ice crystals
batteries not included
winter berries
three wise men

Made up words

Use the following "words" in sentences. You can try doing more than one word per sentence. (The picture, btw, is one of the made up words that turned out to be real.)
The words are from a page by Jeroen Kessel. You can randomly generate 100 words that have an English, Brazilian, Danish, Dutch, French, German or Portuguese flavor. They're created by analyzing letter grouping frequencies, so an "n" in English is more likely to be followed by an "e" and a "q".

He has a page of other types of generators sentence generators, name generators, Shakesperean insult generators.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bonsai text

Go to Bonsai Story Generator. Take a piece of writing you've done. Cut and paste in a chunk of text. She says, "Three or four passages of 1000 words each are recommended for best effect (note that this box won't hold text longer than about 6,000 words total)"

Paste it in and click Bonsai this text. It will cut and paste and twist your text around and put it in a sort of tree form.

Some of the juxtaposed lines might serve as writing prompts.

Here's Kathryn's:

Katzah had just started the banquet.
I'm thinking that Avn had slept through.
Now, onto slightly more of them now do we?
Katzah Korp.
Everyone get packed, we're leaving in deserted towns and eating Cornucopias.
And he just started the ones that say 'Meep!' and twenty eight minutes.
That is the gift The Martians give people special gifts like some kind of these
Gorbenphlappes can!
Watch out, and placing your ceiling and we suspect that there have dark purple
eyes and eating Cornucopias.
And he just started his gourd like some kind of this costume?
Or, does it just stay on everyone!!
I have to go to be hidden at all times.
How can he have explained rocking from Gorbenphlappes and blow things up.

And mine:

Oozing canker!
bellowed the rocks.
The demon sank its fangs into the lesser demon deformed and found himself against a berserker slaughterfest.
His hard gaze suggested his blade to a screech and sliced the wintery air.
But he drew his clothing and hair were covered with the effort.
He brushed idly at Rane.
With a lesser demon sank a mid-order demon.
And the rocks.
The lesser demon squirmed around and bewildered as he looked down on the scene.
In the cold as he prepared to a slit and hair and hair and flattened and face until he was still not satisfied.
What are you to greet you properly.
Forgive me!
Rane returned his blade to greet you to greet you to greet you to greet you doing?
Rane returned his blade to twice its treatment, the show.
Puking rump feeder!
The demon's whine turned to a berserker slaughterfest.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Exquisite Corpse

Another game for over the holiday season, this is a writing game for a group.

What you need:
  • a group of people
  • writing implement for each person
  • a sheet of paper for each person
How to:

Write down the side of each paper.
  • Article (traditionally a, an, the, but also: some, all, every, one, ...)
  • Adjective
  • Noun
  • Adverb
  • Verb
  • Article
  • Adjective
  • Noun
The first person fills in an article and passes the paper to the right. The second person fills in an adjective and folds the paper over to hide the article before passing the paper to the right. The third person fills in a noun and folds the paper over to hide the adjective before passing the paper to the right. So each time the paper is passed, the person accepting the paper will only be able to see the most recently added word.

Keep going until all the words are filled in. Then open them up and look at the sentences created.

(You can use any structure of sentence. The above is the structure of the original game that prompted its name.)

It's speculated the name came from one of the first keepers "The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine."

If you would like to contribute to an online Exquisite Corpse Poem go to Exquisite Corpse Poetry. Click on Game (up at the top in the gray bar)

The circles show how many words have been added to a line. (If the last one's blinking only one more word is needed and you can complete a line.) Click on a verse and it will tell you what type of word is needed. Type in your word and then submit.

Click on Verse (again up in the gray bar) to see lines that have been completed. If you change the month you can see the top vote getters. They can be used as writing prompts.

There's also a longer ongoing poem at An Exquisite Corpse Poem. This displays the most recently submitted line of the poem. You supply the next. When you click "Activate" (which submits your line) you can see the poem so far.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


This may be more fun without the timer. From last week, a lipogram is a type of constrained writing, done by forbidding words that have a particular letter or particular letters. An anti-lipogram on the other hand requires words to have a particular letter or letters

Rewrite Mary Had a Little Lamb using only words containing e. (Obviously you'll have to change her name!) Also try anti-lipograms with t and a.

Here's the original:
Mary had a little lamb,
its fleece was white as snow;
and everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day,
which was against the rule;
it made the children laugh and play,
to see a lamb at school.
(If you need help with the rhymes Rhymezone has a rhyming dictionary.)

Even harder is to write using only one vowel. That's called univocalic prose.

Here's Mary Had a Little Lamb using words that don't have any vowels except "e". I'll put it down below so you don't see it until you're done with yours. Scroll down when you're done:



Meg kept the wee sheep.
The sheep's fleece resembled sleet.
Then, whenever Meg went,
The sheep went there next...

Holiday spirit

What will the winter holidays be like on a Moon or Mars colony?

What about an interstellar ship that's traveling for months at a time (like the slow moving mining ships in Star Trek Voyager)?

How do garden fairies celebrate the winter holidays?

Do rocks have holiday spirit?

What do fire demons do at this time of the year?

How does Spider-Man celebrate the holidays?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hermione and the Three Mountain Trolls

Rewrite a fairy tale with other characters. Here's some examples or pick whatever strikes your muse.
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears as Hermione and the Three Mountain Trolls or Barbie and the Three Wise Men

  • Beauty and the Beast as The Veela and the Giant

  • Frog Prince as The Random Pretty Alien and the Randy Capt. Kirk (or reverse them)

  • Sleeping Beauty as the Carbonized Han Solo or, for manga fans, The Sleeping Inuyasha

  • Little Red Riding Hood as Little Red Caped Superman

  • Hansel and Gretel as Rome-el and Juliet-el

12 Days of Christmas

Make a new list for the 12 Days of Christmas song. You could try a theme like Star Trek, classic monsters, Dragonball Z, food, cars ...

Here's the original:
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
eleven pipers piping,
ten lords a-leaping,
nine ladies dancing,
eight maids a-milking,
seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying,
five golden rings;
four colly birds,
three French hens,
two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.
When you're done, there are several parodies listed toward the bottom of the Wikipedia article.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eat Poop You Cat

If you'll be with a group of loony people over the holiday season, this is a writing/drawing game for a group.

What you need:
  • a group of people
  • writing implement for each person
  • small pad of paper for each person
How to:

Each person writes a sentence on their pad. They all pass their pads to the right. Each person looks at the phrase, flips to the next page and illustrates the sentence.

Pass to the right again. Each person looks at the illustration, flips to the next page and tries to reproduce the original sentence. (Obviously that's not possible which is the fun part!

Pass to the right again.

Continue until the pads have gone all the way around (or through an odd number of people since it should end with a sentence.)

Then look over the evolution of the sentence.

There are links to examples at the bottom of Wikipedia Eat Poop You Cat article.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


This may be more fun without the timer. A lipogram is a type of constrained writing, done by forbidding words that have a particular letter or particular letters.

Rewrite Mary Had a Little Lamb without using the letter s. Try also eliminating a, e, h and t. (And anything else you'd like to try.)

Here's the original:
Mary had a little lamb,
its fleece was white as snow;
and everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day,
which was against the rule;
it made the children laugh and play,
to see a lamb at school.
(If you need help Rhymezone has an online rhyming dictionary.)

When you're done, Ross Eckler has come up with several constrained versions of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

If you think that was hard, people have written entire novels under various restraints:

11 Incredible Lipograms

Lipogrammatic Works of Fiction

And a new book that even gets very good reviews. It's a satire on censorship.

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

From Amazon: Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Advertising villains

Your favorite villain has opened up a business or some kind of service. (Think about the villain's skills and strengths and what kind of business the villain would be really good at.) Write an ad for the business.

Five random words: The guest thief

Write sentences that contain all 5 of the words on each line. Feel free to change some of the word endings, eg, change jokes to joked or joking.
  1. guest thief horns stripes jokes
  2. spiked mossy meadow liver dancer
  3. explore unbelievable jokes seasons embarrassed
  4. million master spiral eyeball cavern
  5. squealed baboon traveler curved drench
  6. disease crooked hobbled monk squashed
  7. ooze frost wings roam checkered
  8. dangerous meadow baboon chameleon entertainment
  9. hobbled invent scorpion return strange
  10. screech acrobat unusual crackling sharp
  11. demon unfriendly moldy million flipped
  12. stranger rage curved mystery valley
  13. shy crumbling sweat brain amazing
  14. private entertainment hunger shy eyeball
  15. shy miniscule complain fantastic gigantic
  16. whimpered deep unusual guard fuzzy
  17. fatal enjoyable overgrown reward book
  18. shiver tongue creature penalty misty
  19. past coward whimpered horrible dragon
  20. priest dangerous protest frightened guest
This was inspired by the game Baffle-Gab. I haven't played the game but it does look fun. (Though from the examples shown at the website the nouns look like present day stuff like astronauts and so on.)

If you're clever with spreadsheets, you can generate more sets of 5 random words like above.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Freezer full of waitresses

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won''t be using. It was a snatch of overheard -- hopefully misoverheard! -- conversation in a check out line.

Use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt or go for a longer piece.

SHE: "There's no way we're going to fit all of that in the freezer. It's still full of waitresses. "

HE: "I keep forgetting."

#543 at NaNoWriMo - contributed by SnappingTurtle.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Use the following homophones in a sentence or phrase. (The -s means the plurals are also homophones.)
pride, pried
tea, tee, ti ["do, re"], [T]
toad, toed, towed
udder (-s), utter (-s)
worst, wurst
aerie, airy
ate, eight
bazaar, bizarre
braid, brayed
dewed, dude
ewes, use, yews
friar, fryer
its, it's
lightening, lightning
loan, lone
miner, minor
pi, pie
prince, prints
rose, rows
tacked, tact
taper (-s), tapir (-s)
thyme, time
waist (-s), waste (-s)
whose, who's
yore, your, you're
you'll, yule
When you're done, Dittograms has some funny (and punny) homophones.

Tour of Klingon

You are (or a character you've created is) on a tour of the Klingon home planet. Start a travel diary and each day this month make a brief entry about what happened "that day". You might find inspiration in your own day to translate into a vacation day. (As usual feel free to change Klingon to a setting from a favorite book or movie or video game or ...)

Top 10 tabloid headlines for December 2005

From The City Newsstand's (a newsstand/bookstore in Chicago) monthly MAGBAG -- Top 10 Tabloid Headlines. (Mostly from Weekly World News (WWN) and the SUN.)

Choose one as a writing prompt.

  6. Are you offended by naked animals? Then welcome to the . . . CIRCUS OF THE PRUDES — WWN
  7. MAN HITS SNOOZE 892 TIMES—and strolls into work 5? days late! — WWN

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In Spirit writing prompts, pt. 2

Here's some more from my NaNoWriMo until I can get back to other things besides writing! Only two days left!

Pick one as a writing prompt:
  • Miori didn't stir from her knees as the sword passed through her again and again. She twitched her feathery tail which swept aside a swath of her hair on the floor, and turned her head to look at Chen trembling, sprawled on the floor still clutching the book. His glasses were askew and he gasped for breath.
  • Dandor floated above the cushion that had been his favorite in life. He once sat on his cushion daily to meditate as he gazed out over his garden from the entrance to his study. Now his cushion was in a storage room. It rested atop his grandfather's armor, that was atop a chest of outmoded clothing from decades ago, that rested atop a box of keepsakes from scores of years ago: old letters, curious rocks, a faded ribbon, a tiny box of baby teeth.
  • Drae paced. An old habit from his living days that had returned in recent months. "How much longer?"
  • Koshiria groaned. She was back in the black void again. When she had first become aware, she had been frightened but now it was just plain irritating. When she found out who was doing this to her she was going to haunt him or her for the rest of his or her life.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Name books

For years I thought I was eccentric in liking to collect baby name books but I've since found out it's a fairly common hobby for writers.

The best one I've found for fantasy writers is Baby Name Countdown by Janet Schwegel. (There are some used ones at Amazon for a $1.)

Unlike most baby name books, it doesn't give definitions. It's purely a list of names, divided into boys and girls, culled from birth records so there are names that are truly unique as well as foreign names and common names. I've been able to drop my finger onto a random page and find fantasy-sounding names nearby (that's how common the uncommon names are.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who are they?

I used to choose beautiful fantasy names for my characters. But I've learned a lot from seeing the names JK Rowling has used in Harry Potter like Ludo Bagman, Rita Skeeter, Horace Slughorn. I haven't quite gotten up to that level yet but the names I've been using more recently tend to "fit" the character or sometimes even create the character.

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes and write a sentence (or more, of course, if you get inspired!) about the character these names evoke for you:
Atur Feerish
Baktu the Buster
Dove Windseeker
Grelvain Jagar-Lorn
Hara Blem
Lady Trees
Oniss Larae
Queen Horeen of the Vurthar

In Spirit writing prompts

I have no idea if the novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is going anywhere or not but I decided to throw out some random bits as story prompts.
  • Grelvain placed the manifestation rod in the center of the circle of incense sticks. He lit the incense in the prescribed order. This was an old spirit so he had used eleven sticks.
  • In a chamber, deep in the abandoned Harijang Temple, the spirit medium and scholar waited. Ritual candles flickered beside Miori, their light frosting into prominence grotesque eyes, noses and mouths of the sculpted gods watching them from the far corners of the large chamber.
  • Lady Trees stopped before a door at the end of a long hall where a servant waited. His Grandaunt took jangling keys from a pocket of her embroidered robe and inserted one into the lock. She held the door open for him and he entered. "This is what family means," she said behind him and closed the door. The lock clicked.
  • "Looks like at least one of the Seven Hells has officially frozen over," Teah said with a laugh, as she turned and found her little brother standing in the doorway of her father's storefront business.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Retell Romeo and Juliet

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won't be using.

#3: "Retell the story of Romeo and Juliet, only make them a vampire and a werewolf (you can pick which is which)." -- Tupwen

(It was later pointed out that this was a piece of the plot of the movie Underworld but it could go in so many different directions.)

#192: "Alternatively: Vampires and witches exist, but witches are actually vampire-hunters so the two groups, by default, hate each other. After one vampire colony was exerminated by the witches, one small boy survived and was secretly taken in by a witch who felt sorry. At age 18, the vampire escapes. He has all his vampire instincts but was raised by someone 'good', so none of his kind would accept him. Living on the fringes of society he meets a young witch and they fall in love against their better judgement. Chaos ensues." -- BlackEyedGirl

Or how about an angel and a devil, a fire demon and a water sprite, an anthrocat and and anthrowolf (their cultures and social structures they'd grown up in would be totally different), Ranma and Akane (from Ranma 1/2) ...

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Spoonerisms are made (usually by mistake!) by switching the beginning sound of two words to make a stunny fatement, er, funny statement. So instead of saying "you missed my history lecture" it comes out "You hissed my mystery lecture." To get your spooner oiled, here's some from the website I linked below so these all can turn into things people thought funny. (Try doing them out loud so you aren't confounded by odd spelling (like "mistery")

If you want to keep going, try a list of fairy tales, favorite movies, favorite books, friends' names, names from Parry Hotter, and so on.
lighting a fire
battle ships and cruisers
cosy little nook
a crushing blow
sons of toil
we'll have the flags hung out
you've wasted two terms
our loving shepherd
a half-formed wish
is the Dean busy?
blow your nose
go and take a shower
ease my tears
picking your nose
you have very bad manners
pack of lies
it's pouring with rain
healing the sick
so help me God
nit picking
foul beast
I'm a stamp dealer
save the whales
flipping the channel on TV
bad money
I'm out of the shower
speed of light
this is the fun part
I hit my funny bone
wedding bells
I must send the mail
it falls through the cracks
my lips are zipped
flat battery
would you like a hazel nut?
jelly beans
bye all
right in your face
steady as a rock
toe nails
listen here
bowl of salad
If you want to add on a writing prompt to this, set the timer for 10-15 minutes and pick your favorite (or a handful of your favorites) and use them.

BTW, the Spoonerisms page (which is where the above list came from) has a bit about the guy who became famous (or infamous) for them, some Spoonerism terry fails, er, fairy tales.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A drabble is a 100 word story. Exactly 100 words. Hyphenated words are debated so it's up to you. You can have up to 15 words for a title.

This is a challenge in brevity! And in choosing words that will do multiple duties.

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes, become friends with the word counter on your word processor, and have at it.

BTW, There's a good history of drabbles at The Drabble Project

PS: If you need a plot:

Here are a few plots from The Big List of RPG Plots by S. John Ross that might lend themselves to beginning, middle and end rather than the prompts written here that just get you started. There are many more plots there with lots of twists and themes. That site is overkill for this exercise but might be useful for ideas for stories.

Any Old Port in a Storm
The characters are seeking shelter from the elements or some other threat, and come across a place to hole up. They find that they have stumbled across something dangerous, secret, or supernatural, and must then deal with it in order to enjoy a little rest.

Better Late Than Never
Some bad guys have arrived and done some bad guy things. The characters were none the wiser. The bad guys have now made good their escape, and the characters have caught wind of it in time to chase them down before they make it back to their lair, their home nation, behind enemy lines, etc.

An antagonist has something to hold over the heads of the characters and make them jump. This could be any kind of threat from physical to social, but it depends on the villain having something - even if it's information - that others don't have. Now, he is pulling the strings of the characters, telling them to do things they don't want to. The characters must end the cycle of blackmail, deprive the villain of his edge, and keep him temporarily satisfied while doing it.

Breaking and Entering
Mission objective: enter the dangerous place, and retrieve the vital dingus or valuable person. Overcome the area's defenses to do so.

Capture the Flag
The characters must secure a military target for the good guys. There are bad guys there that prefer not to be secured. The fundamental tactical scenario.

Clearing The Hex
There is a place where bad things live. The characters must make it safe for nice people, systematically clearing it of danger.

Delver's Delight
The characters are treasure-hunters, who have caught wind of a treasure-laden ruin. They go to explore it, and must deal with its supernatural denizens to win the treasure and get out alive.

Don't Eat The Purple Ones
The characters are stranded in a strange place, and must survive by finding food and shelter, and then worry about getting back home.

Escort Service
The characters have a valuable object or person, which needs to be taken to a safe place or to its rightful owner, etc. They must undertake a dangerous journey in which one or more factions (and chance and misfortune) try to deprive them of the thing in their care.

Help is on the Way
A person (church group, nation, galaxy) is in a hazardous situation they can't survive without rescue. The characters are on the job. In some scenarios, the hook is as simple as a distant yell or crackly distress signal.

Hidden Base
The characters, while traveling or exploring, come across a hornet's nest of bad guys, preparing for Big Badness. They must either find some way to get word to the good guys, or sneak in and disable the place themselves, or a combination of both.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tarot readings

Several writing sites suggest using tarot cards (or some other divination object like I-Ching, runes and so forth) to create characters and plots.

At Facade they have free tarot readings (and runes and numerology and I Ching). It sounds tacky but it's very cool. You can choose different layouts and different decks and then the reading tells you what the cards mean in those positions.

At Using Tarot Spreads to Create Characters is an article with spreads specifically for creating characters and plots. You'll have to do the cards and meanings yourself, but, for instance the second spread has cards that represent for a character: Fears and Dreams, Hobbies and Interests, Blind Spots and Breaking Points, History, Home, Relationships, Agendas, Motivation, Plot Hooks.

The whole Burning Void site has articles on developing characters and plots for role playing games -- the game masters have to come up with a lot of them in a short amount of time! But the ideas are easily adaptable to writing.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Inspired names

Use the following words to inspire names. Use the word as is, change the spelling, use it as part of a name, eg, if the word was zebra: Zebrillia Stripes, Zebo Black, Whitey Zebran. Try combining two words to come up with a name.
Pick your favorite(s). Set the timer for 10-15 minutes. Write about him, her or it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fractured fairy tales

Mix two fairy tales together. One of the 3 little pigs gets turned into a frog? The Hansel and Gretel witch mistakes Rumplestiltskin for Hansel?

The next post has a list of (mostly European) fairy tales in case your brain freezes up when asked to come up with a list like mine does! Feel free to add your own and don't feel compelled to stick to fairy tales!

Fairy tales

Here's a list of familiar, mostly European, fairy tales for those prompts that suggest using one.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Beauty and the Beast
Br'er Rabbit
Elves and the Shoemaker
Emperor’s New Clothes
Frog Prince
Gingerbread Man
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
Hansel and Gretel
Jack and the Beanstalk
John Henry
Johnny Appleseed
Little Red Riding Hood
Paul Bunyan
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Princess and the Pea
Puss 'n Boots
Sleeping Beauty
Snow White
Three Billy Goats Gruff
Three Little Pigs
Tortoise and the Hare
Ugly Duckling
Wikipedia has an even better, huger, international list of fairy tales. Most of the titles link to a brief synopsis of the tale.

Sur La Lune has a collection of 49 annotated tales, including histories, similar tales from other cultures and modern retellings.

And children's author, Rick Walton, has gathered the texts of over 2000 Folk and Fairy Tales (with multiple versions of several) as well as the texts of public domain Classic Tales and Fables including Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Bullfinch's Mythology.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The ghost, the devil and the angel

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won't be using.

#20: "The story follows a ghost, who for some reason or another decides to become alive again, and needs to work with a devil and an angel to do so." -- Tikvah Ariel

Use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt or go for a longer piece.

Said substitutes

This was several writers' contributions to a prompt. It was amazing how few repeats there were!
  • added, admitted, ameliorated, announced, apologized, argued
  • barked, beckoned, bellowed, blubbered, blustered, bounced, breathed
  • cackled, cajoled, called, cautioned, chirped, cooed, coughed, cried, croaked, crooned, crowed
  • declared, deferred, demanded, digressed, drawled, drooled
  • echoed, effused, enunciated, escalated, estimated, examined, exclaimed
  • faltered, fawned, fielded, fished, fluttered, fretted, frothed, frowned, fumbled
  • gabbed, gagged, giggled, groaned, grumbled, guessed, guffawed, gulped, gurgled, gushed
  • haggled, hinted, hissed, hooted, howled, huffed, hushed
  • initiated, inquired, insisted, intimated, issued
  • jabbed, jested, joked, jowled
  • kibitzed, kidded, kilovolted, kvetched
  • lamented, laughed, lied, lingered
  • meandered, mentioned, mewed, moaned, murmured, muttered
  • nagged, nattered, noted, noticed, nudged
  • objected, offered, oozed, ordered, overemphasized, overstated
  • pacified, panted, pantomimed, pondered, poo-pooed, pooped, pouted, pried, protested
  • quacked, quaked, queried, questioned, quibbled, quipped
  • ragged, reaffirmed, reasoned, regressed, reminisced, renounced, repeated, responded, roared
  • sang, screamed, seethed, shouted, shrieked, shushed, sighed, slurred, sobbed, spewed, squeaked, stammered, stated, stuttered
  • tattled, taunted, teased, thought, thought-out-loud, tittered, told, trumpeted
  • ululated, undulated, urged, uttered
  • venerated, vented, versed, voiced, volunteered, vouched
  • waffled, wallowed, wandered, warbled, warned, whimpered, whispered, whooped, wondered
  • xiphoided
  • yammered, yammered, yelled, yelped, yodeled
  • zinged, zoned

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Said substitutes

When writing dialog it's okay to use "said" when you want to help the reader keep track of who's speaking. In fact it calls too much attention to your writing. rather than keeping the attention on the story, if you try to use a lot of different words instead of said.

But sometimes characters are "blustering" and "cooing" and "lisping" and occasional use of them can add some sparkle to the story and the character.

Write the alphabet down the side of the page. For each letter come up with as many different ways to say "said" as you can.

Modern Story Starter

There's a nifty thing on line called the Modern Story Starter. Just click on "Start the Modern Story Starter" button. Wish they were more fantasy based! But the idea is neat.

If you don't like the ones generated there, here's a more speculative fiction one inspired by those at the website:
My protagonist is a female. My protagonist is a ghost hunter. The antagonist in my story is a archaeologist. A key object or symbol in my story is a spider's web. My story will be set in an old temple. My story is about pride.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sausage words

Link one word to the next until you have a sentence. Pick a word to begin a sentence. The next word in the sentence should start with the ending letter of the previous word. For example if the first word is Good you might come up with:
  • Good dogs shouldn't tell lies.
And if the first word is Twenty you might come up with something like:
  • Twenty yellow waterlillies skunked Donald Duck's snake.

Here's some initial words if you need them. Use whatever random words pop into your head for more.

Something's rotten

Something’s rotten in your refrigerator. Write a scene in which the condiments residing in the door shelves plot to take over the prime real estate on the top shelf, front and center. Will milk be spilled? (And who’ll be crying?)

This is from -- Free Writing Prompts.

Top 10 tabloid headlines for November 2005

From The City Newsstand's (a newsstand/bookstore in Chicago) monthly MAGBAG -- Top 10 Tabloid Headlines. (Mostly from Weekly World News (WWN) and the SUN.)

Choose one as a writing prompt.

  1. Toads explode in ‘Pond of Death’ — SUN
  8. Astronomer spots Elvis-shaped constellation! — WWN
  9. DROMEDARY OF THE DEEP Undersea camels discovered! — WWN

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A dark eerie fog

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won't be using.

Use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt or go for a longer piece.

#2: "Three students are on their way home when they realize that the whole campus is surrounded by a dark, eerie fog. Every time they try to leave campus they end up back where they started. What exactly is going on here? and who is that girl in the red tattered dress that seems to be following them every where?" -- shizu_bara

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Clustering characters

If you don't know what clustering is, see below.

Word Prompt

What does a particular character make you think of?

Begin with a character type. It can be a stock character like a wizard or mecha pilot or mini-mart clerk.

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes.

In the middle of a piece of paper write your character type and circle it.

Write around it ideas your character type makes you think of.

Around those ideas write ideas those make you think of.

NOTE: It might be helpful to do this on a big piece of paper. (Though my tendency when using a big piece of paper is to write big which defeats the purpose!

2nd NOTE: I had a tendency when branching out from my related word to think back to the original word. That is I started with ghost and one word it reminded me of was transparent. Then I got stuck trying to think in terms of "transparent ghost." Try to not do that! :-) Treat each word as a totally new and fresh idea. When I started to think fresh then transparent led to window and transparencies ...

Writing Prompt

When the timer's done, look over what you wrote and pick out some ideas that you like. Maybe what you ended up with were a lot of cliches. Try choosing the opposite and see what kind of character that sparks for you.

When you have something you like, set the timer for 10-15 minutes and write about her or him or it.

About Cluster Diagrams

Clustering is a great way to get ideas to flow out. What you do is write a word or an idea in the middle of a piece of paper. Radiating out from it you'll write whatever words/ideas your central word/idea makes you think of. And then around those words/ideas you'll write words/ideas those make you think of. Basically it's free association.

There's one up in the right corner clustering around "ghost" and one at: Cluster sample. (Notice in the "Cluster sample" one that Dad radiated out from Bar but the words radiating out from Dad had nothing to do with bar. This is A Good Thing! It means the imagination is flowing.)

This is inspired by Lisa Lippert's page on writing exercises

(Clustering can work for just about anything you need to generate ideas for.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Movie titles, part 2

Here's another list of real movie titles. Write a story or Amazon review or blurb for the back of the DVD cover.

For those who are new, you probably won't have a complete story when you're done, just the beginning. If you're really liking it, of course keep going when the timer goes off!
  • Aelita: Queen of Mars
  • Africa Screams
  • After the Fox
  • Against the Drunken Cat Paws
  • Fear Eats the Soul
  • Almost Angels
  • Queen of the Desert
  • Anna to the Infinite Power
  • Ark of the Sun God
  • Autopsy of a Ghost

Themed alphabet book

Pick a favorite topic like video games, baseball, Star Trek, unschooling, fantasy characters and so on and write an alphabet book for it. Use strong images that you could illustrate list colorful words and phrases for each of the letters. Use alliteration if you want, eg, Ailing Aliens arming ancient alligators, Belligerent Batboys bellowing at butterflies ....

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A use for spam

In my wanderings around the internet, someone mentioned that spammers pick good names. They're unusual without being too far out there.

It's handy to keep a text file on your desktop or some easy to get to place so you can save any good ones spammers spam you with.

I've been collecting them and here's my list so far:

Margo ShieldsAldo Hardin
Lauretta HirschVirgil Fredericksen
Diedre R. BullockReynaldo Clay
Rian LickteigWilbur Newell
Rhian MarooneEsteban Farrell
Lynnette RobinsonBasil Sawyer
Loren KeenStephen Moore
Jaime RoyCary Donned
Charlotte CollierTheron Medrano
Suzette WillardTod Berg
Karol BasnettIrving Logan
Wendy ValeMarc Weston
Elvia McNallyCoy Hanks
Mariana CraneDeryck Seawood
Nancy ReddyFaustus Spafford
Tommi RoseDerrick Camp
Agnes GoreLes Johnson
Stephenie WilsonRyan Fullock
Beryl HollowayDamon Hardin
Adriana DonneDamon Walden
Vanessa HerndonFredrick Templeton
Tanya VernonBarry Lawrence
Gina MitchellFranklin Kelly
Nannie AlstonLance Noel
Johanna PattersonAlonzo Shultz
Jennifer ClarkNolan Prescott
Shawna GalloMorton Callahan
Ashley GuerreroReuben Hale
Sheila DillardCornelius Yates
Kim CarnesBenny Austin
Alikee ChamberlainDorian Major
Elisaveta DraughnKirby Dougherty
Kerri WelchKory David
Leta WintersCarmelo Fournier
Gail KenneyHupprecht Studdard
Fannie MeyersLaurence Dorsey
Priscilla GrossJimmie Summer
Tasha HaydenSimonides Kreger
Edith RatliffCarmen Pollock
Rose MarcumCarl Ouellette
Deanna FinnMaynard Culver
Bettie BallardZane Koch
Rosita CrowChance Hopper
Anita BrownThurman Thomas
Angelita SappLemuel Harper
Hollie BegayErik Reece
Melody FinkTruman Sanchez
Alanah AbernathyCecil Justince
Brooke ShipleyCornell Reed
Amy GoinsHarrison Krueger

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rhapsodical rhyming

Write the following words in a column. Set the timer for 10-15 minutes write as many rhymes as you can for each. Make some up!
(Hint, if you get stuck on a word, lop off letters or syllables starting from the beginning and pronounce what's left out loud. That is, geranium might get you stuck, but -um might get you going.)

When your 10-15 minutes are up, go back and circle your favorite words. You may want to write them on a clean piece of paper if you think you'll get distracted by the other words. Set the timer for 10-15 minutes and use those as a writing prompt.

If you didn't do the rhyming prompt, just take the above words and use as a writing prompt.